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15 May 2012 Employment advice

Last year 71,300 claims for unauthorised deductions were brought in front of the employment tribunal, the second most common claim brought by employees. The most common examples of unlawful deductions made by employers are: Bonuses - many of the reported cases relate to the payment of bonuses.  The employment tribunals have decided that, if the amount of the unpaid bonus can be quantified, the employee can claim it as an unlawful deduction. Underpayment of commission - if the employee is paid less commission than is due, this may be an unlawful deduction. Tips - if a worker is entitled to tips (or part of a "tronc"), which are not paid, he can bring a claim. Holiday pay - a failure to pay outstanding holiday pay when the employment terminates has been held to be…
06 April 2012 Employment advice

The main change made this month was to increase the qualifying period for employees to claim unfair dismissal from one year to two years. This only applies to new employees who started work on or after 6 April, which means that it is fairly straightforward - anyone already employed before then will retain the one-year qualifying period. Employers will need to check an employee's start date carefully before dismissing him or her to establish whether they have the right to bring a claim or not. The change in the period of qualifying service also applies to the right to a written statement for the reasons for dismissal. The Government has estimated that the number of claims will drop by around 2,000 per year, saving employers around £4.7 million per year. This change was made to…
24 March 2012 Employment advice

The CBI estimates that the annual cost to British business of sick days is £13 billion, and the average worker takes seven sick days a year. Twelve per cent of sick days are estimated to be bogus by the CBI. Sickness is a sensitive issue which requires correct handling if you are to avoid any inference that you have been unfair or heavy-handed: on the other hand you cannot be expected to stand back and watch absenteeism decimate the work force and extinguish your profits. Absence through sickness costs businesses a huge amount of money and wastes management time, placing a burden on those employees who conscientiously soldier on. So what can be done? The most important thing is to have an appropriate policy, not a dusty piece of paper lingering in a filing cabinet…
03 February 2012 Employment advice

Employers can dismiss employees under one of six potentially fair reasons for dismissal: conduct, capability, redundancy, breach of a statutory enactment, some other substantial reason and retirement. However carefully these dismissals are carried out by the employer, there is always a possibility that an unfair dismissal claim will be brought either because the dismissal is not for a fair reason or because it was not procedurally fair. To circumvent this, the parties can enter into a settlement agreement which effectively waives an employee's right to take their case to an employment tribunal in exchange for a sum of money being paid to the employee.  Settlement agreements can also relate to a number of other claims. Even if the employee has less than 2 years' service, there might still be a risk in dismissing them if their circumstances…
11 January 2012 Employment advice

More than 1.3 million workers have lost their jobs during this recession and there are substantial public sector job cuts to come, as the recession continues to bite. Cutting any jobs is usually a last resort and needs to be handled sensitively and carefully as navigating the plethora of employee rights can be a minefield for any employer. Staff with more than one year's employment, may be able to claim unfair dismissal if the redundancy is not genuine or if their employer fails to follow the correct procedures - so it is vitally important to ensure that you do.  If you are at all unsure, then it is best to seek legal advice. For example, staff should be consulted in a series of meetings.  This gives them a chance to come up with suggestions for…
10 November 2011 Employment advice

Whether or not we see a repeat of last year's big freeze, it makes sense for employers to ensure that they have a policy regarding adverse weather conditions.  As an employer you need to be clear of your obligations and your employees will welcome clarity regarding what is expected of them. The position for your business will depend upon the particular terms within your employee's contracts of employment.  Key issues that should be set out include: the procedure for reporting to managers obtaining authorisation for an absence working at home the policy on pay; or the use of holiday entitlement or flexi time   Employees who are absent from work due to extreme weather or other travel disruptions are not generally entitled to be paid for lost time, however it is also important…
11 October 2011 Residential property

If you are buying, acquiring or holding property jointly with someone else it is important that everyone understands the basis of joint ownership from the beginning. There are two sorts: Joint Tenants and Tenants-in-Common. ("Tenant" does not have its usual meaning of someone paying in rent in either case). Joint Tenants: Joint Tenancy is the form of joint ownership where two or more people own the property together on the basis that: On any sale of the property, the proceeds of sale are automatically divided equally between the parties, regardless of the contributions they may have made to the original purchase price, subsequent improvements etc. If any joint owner dies, his/her share automatically passes to the surviving owner(s). This transfer happens without payment and is not affected by any Will the deceased owner may…
05 October 2011 Wills and estates

Who would look after my personal welfare and finances if I were unable to? If you don't know the answer to the above question then you are not alone. We often take for granted the ability to manage our financial affairs, such as paying household bills, mortgages, healthcare costs and give little thought to what might happen if we were unable to manage these tasks anymore. Why would I be unable to manage my affairs? For various reasons such as mental incapacity or physical restrictions, both of which can result from illness, accident or old age. What can I do? Set up a Lasting Power of Attorney ('LPA') - a legal document which allows you to appoint someone you trust (known as an 'Attorney') to act on your behalf if or when the need arises…
26 September 2011 Residential property

Chancel repair liability is the responsibility on some property owners in England and Wales to pay for repairs to the chancel of their local church.  The Chancel is the part of the church reserved for the use of the clergy or choir, and where the altar is placed. Making enquiries of your local PCC to find out if you have potential liability is not advisable, as this may alert them to the need to register their interest, and insurance would not then be able to be obtained. History Historically, the responsibility for the upkeep of a church was divided between the rector (the clergyman in charge of the parish) and the parishioners (the members of the parish).  Subsequently, parishioners' responsibilities were transferred by legislation to the church, but rectors were still responsible for the…
25 September 2011 Commercial property

Legislation protects residential tenants from excessive service charges. Before entering into contracts to provide services or carry out works relating to residential properties, you should consider whether you need to consult with your tenants. If you fail to consult when required, you will only be able to recoup the statutory maximum, unless you receive dispensation from the Leasehold Valuation Tribunal (LVT). What is a service charge? A service charge is an amount payable by your tenant as part of or in addition to their rent. Service charges may vary according to the costs or estimated costs incurred in connection with the matters for which the service charge is payable. Service charges must be reasonable You can request that your tenant pays you a service charge for costs you incur for: Services Repairs…
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